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With an awe-inspiring light touch that manages to impart the oppressive colonial history of indentured servants and African slaves without sugar coating or overwhelming the young reader with the harsh realities of this period of history, Alice McGill writes the love and family story of former indentured servant, Molly Walsh and her formerly enslaved husband Bannaky—the grandparents of Benjamin Banneker. Chris Soentpiet’s water color paintings provide an evocative illustration for a story whose complexity holds the reader’s emotional commitment from the first to last page. You feel the griot that is author Alice McGill as you read Molly Bannaky. Every classroom should have a copy of this mini-biography of one of history’s women of strength and every household with or without children should have a copy of this book on its shelves. Not a bedtime story but a story to be read and discussed.
Recommendation: Highly Recommended; Ages 6-10
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda
That’s My Mum is a book that will have obvious significance for many in the Mixed-Heritage communities. One of the things I like about this book is that while the protagonist and first person narrator is Amelia who is brown with a white mother, her best friend whose family gets just as much space on the page is Kai, a biracial white boy whose mom is brown-skinned.
This is only the second picture book I’ve come across that gives attention to the fair-skinned, straight-haired children of brown mothers and the only picture book with a full story arc that does so. The author smartly pairs Amelia and Kai to show that their emotional responses to the mother mix-up are the same. Together, Kai and Amelia face the emotionally and pragmatically challenging issue of people questioning their relationships with their mothers. Though these two friends find the mother mix-up frustrating and saddening, the language of the book remains
light while giving realistic attention to the children’s feelings and communications with people outside of their family. In a humorous twist to their story, the two friends collaborate to create a solution to their shared issue. Many of their ideas are silly, one of which they reject out of self-love and appreciation for what they look like. Ultimately, they decide to make buttons with photos of their mothers– a solution that if noticed by others would completely clarify their relationship with their parents and will put a smile on the adult reader’s face as it represents the innocence and innovation of children’s minds. Child readers may still be confused.
The author’s effort in the middle of the book to demonstrate through the narrative language, the confusion other people face when interacting with them, actually results in confusing the reader as the illustration and the wording are not entirely clear. Due to this, I’d place reading age at no younger than 6-years-old.
Published by the London based Educational Company Mantra Lingua, the book ships from England and is published in dual languages. My copy is in English with Urdu translation, pictured is an English-French copy but the book cover states that it is available in English with 22 other languages. The one drawback to this book for those outside of England –the four weeks it takes to receive the book when ordering through Amazon.com. Enjoy.
Recommendation: Highly Recommended especially for families with brown or yellow parents of white appearing children since this is only the second picture book that I’ve found which acknowledges these parents and children.
Book Review by Omilaju Miranda.